Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says teen sensation Joseph Suaalii is poised to step his game up even further after spending the week with the NSW State of Origin squad.
The 18-year-old made Brad Fittler’s 22-man squad but is now back with his Roosters as they prepare for Sunday afternoon’s trip to Canberra where they’ll face the in-form Raiders.
He’s been in red-hot touch with five tries in seven games this season and consistency has become a feature, running for at least 116m in all those appearances.
But Robinson said Suaalii wouldn’t treat his Origin nod as an achievement, but rather a simple step toward a larger goal.
“He obviously enjoyed spending some time in there, he’s a learner so he’ll always pick up stuff and observe, he accelerates himself and he’s learning quite quickly,” Robinson told reporters.
“Often guys like that, it’s not a euphoric moment because they’ve manifested it already, they’ve dreamed about it and seen it happen.
“That’s the first stage to go in there an experience it for him, it’s a step toward something he’s thought about a lot … he’s really happy, but it’s a stepping stone.”
The Roosters will be missing fullback James Tedesco, winger Daniel Tupou and forward Lindsay Collins to Origin. with Kevin Naiqama, Billy Smith and Egan Butcher among the replacements.
Joey Manu will shift to fullback, a role he’s excelled in during Tedesco’s absence in recent seasons.
Veteran forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was a late scratching on Saturday.
“Teddy’s a huge influence on our game and the way that we play, but we’ve been through this a bit over the years,” Robinson said.
“It’s a good opportunity for the other guys to step up and play in his role and do the leadership role.”
Robinson acknowledged “a little bit of disappointment” for Angus Crichton after being snubbed for NSW selection, but said he intended to “dominate” at club level.
For Canberra, young forward Trey Mooney will debut off the bench in place of Queensland Origin prop Josh Papali’i, while Matt Frawley will resume in the halves to cover NSW’s Jack Wighton.